French Decor & GardensInspireKeith Van Sickle

Villa Benkemoun Swirling 70s Architecture in Arles

Just four kilometres from the center of Arles sits the Villa Benkemoun, a magnificent estate designed by a disciple of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Visiting it is like stepping back in time.

Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

The villa was the brainchild of Simone and Pierre Benkemoun, a couple that moved from Algeria to Arles in 1962. They worked hard to establish themselves there, and a decade later enlisted their friend Émile Sala to design their dream home. Sala, a native of Arles, took an unusual approach.

Designing the Villa

Instead of creating an initial set of architectural drawings, Sala began by asking the family to jot down, day by day, how they lived their lives. Where did they take their meals, how did they entertain, did they spend time indoors or out? Then he used this knowledge to design a home that fit their needs, as well as Pierre’s desire to have a home that was “open and transparent.”

Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

The Benkemouns liked Sala’s initial design but thought it had too many sharp edges. They suggested rounding a corner here, creating a curve there, until the house took the form they wanted. The final design was made up of round and elliptical rooms, “full of sensuality,” that seemed to swirl from one to the other.

A Modern Masterpiece

The result is a triumph of 1970s design, a masterpiece of modern architecture. The home is large—500 square meters, with five bedrooms—and full of light. It wraps around a central courtyard and includes a pool and pool house on the one-hectare property.

Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

The architectural features are delightful. There is a capsule-shaped bathroom, perfect for long soaks. A spectacular chrome-plated chimney hood cascades down above the fireplace, bringing to mind falling water. And the specially-designed ceramic floors invite barefoot walking on a hot summer day.

Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

The couple filled the house with colourful avant-garde furniture, making it a true reflection of their time. They raised their family there and lived comfortably for many years. In 2015, in a rare honor, the villa was recognized by the French Ministry of Culture as “Heritage of the 20th Century.”

The Villa Benkemoun Today

By 2017 both Simone and Pierre had passed away. Their daughter Brigitte decided to refurbish the home and open it to the public, and after two years of work, the house was returned to its original glory. Most of the 1970s-era furniture was still in place and the missing pieces were replaced with others from that period. Today, visiting the villa is like stepping back in time, with orange chairs and all (leisure suits not included.)

Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

The house is available to rent, for conferences or dinners or other special events. It also hosts art exhibitions and is occasionally open for tours. For those wishing to stay in a one-of-a-kind location, it is can be rented by the week.

Villa Benkemoun Architecture Arles © Serge Benkemoun

Practical information

Villa Benkemoun (website)
915 rue de la Batelle,
13200 Arles

All photos of Villa Benkemoun © Serge Benkemoun

Please share this with friends and family.

All rights reserved. Perfectly Provence articles and other content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten (including translations into other languages) or redistributed without written permission. For usage information, please contact us.
Syndication Information
Affiliate Information
As an Amazon Associate, this website earns from qualifying purchases. Some recipes, posts and pages may have affiliate links. If you purchase via these links, we receive a small commission that does not impact your price. Thank you in advance for supporting our work to maintain Perfectly Provence.
Previous post

Lavender the Summer Blue-Gold Attraction of Provence

Next post

10 Best Places in Provence to Hike and Walk

Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.